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Concert Crowds Go Silent As Twittering Runs Rampant
LOS ANGELES (CAP) - Some of the music industry's biggest acts - from Bruce Springsteen to U2 to the Jonas Brothers - are touring the world this summer. But where they were once greeted by cheers, they are now finding stony silence, save for the muted pitter-patter of thumbs rubbing against tiny keyboards.
"I would say that concert Twittering has reached epidemic proportions," said Jon Zincway of Live Daily, the music and entertainment website. "I'd say pandemic, but I don't want to cause a panic."
The phenomenon involves concertgoers sending "Tweets" - messages in 140 characters or less - over the Twitter online "microblogging" service during a show. Typically they mention the song the artist is currently playing, but they can also mention other aspects of the show, such as what the artist is wearing, or whether any of the girls around them are "hot."
"It used to be one pasty looking guy writing the setlist down on the back of a napkin," said Zincway of the origin of the practice. "Then with cell phones you started to see people screaming song names to a friend who would post them online. But that was hard with all the noise." For instance, a 2000 setlist posted on a Korn fansite is believed to have identified the band's song Somebody Someone as So Happy Shoehorn.
But with Twitter, the concertgoer can post directly from his or her smart phone, which has led to incessant concert Twittering - to the point where people are doing nothing else. For instance, Tweets like the following came out of the Springsteen concert at Tennessee's Bonarroo music festival by the thousands:
According to Ron Sharkowski, a social media expert from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the number of exclamation points tends to vary depending on the rarity of the song played and how many jumbo beers the Tweeter has consumed.
Or take the following, one of many similar Tweets from the Jonas Brothers' recent Central Park performance for Good Morning America: "OMG!! OMG!! NICK JUST LOOKED @ ME! OMG OMG OMG," and so on until 140 characters.
The practice has left many artists unhappy and speaking out. "When I'm singing, I want the audience focused on me, not some f'ing iPhone," said Sting, who experienced the phenomenon during his reunion shows with The Police last year. "I thought I was done with audiences ignoring me after I finished my lute tour."
And Springsteen, who ironically has often spent much of his time onstage demanding silence, seems flummoxed by the new practice.
"When I told you to shut the f--k up, I didn't mean for the whole f--kin' show," he yelled from the stage at Bonarroo, a statement that was immediately repeated in more than 40,000 Tweets.
But younger artists seem to accept the phenomenon, and some, like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears, have even started Tweeting themselves during their own shows.
"OMG!! OMG!! WHAT AN AWESOME AUDIENCE! OMG OMG," Cyrus tweeted during a recent performance. And Spears sent out this Tweet during two separate shows on her Circus tour: "Got drunk and married some random guy last night. FML."
The Twitterers don't even tend to applaud at the end of the concert. "Dude, it's hard clapping when you're holding your iPhone," explained Josh Elkind, 20, of Long Island, N.Y., who Tweeted the setlist from a recent Phish concert at Jones Beach. "I'm pretty sure that would void the warrantee."
Social media expert Sharkowski sums it up this way: For today's concertgoers "it's not important to them that they're there - it's important that everybody else know that they're there."
He did add, though, that "what they send from concerts is more interesting than their usual Tweets, which tend to be about what they ate for lunch."